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34th Fighter Generation Squadron completes Agile Combat Employment exercise

A photo of F-35 Lightning II maintenance

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mark Zuniga, a dedicated crew chief assigned to the 34th Fighter Generation Squadron, prepares to launch out a 34th Fighter Squadron pilot prior to flight, at Mt. Home Air Force Base, Idaho, April 27th, 2021, during an Agile Combat Employment exercise. An ACE exercise is a small footprint of the FGS's capability to turn jets in a combat scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Codie Trimble)

A photo of F-35 Lightning II maintenance

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashutosh Jinwal, an integrated avionics journeyman assigned to the 34th Fighter Generation Squadron, prepares to attach a refueling hose to the F-35A Lightning ll, during an Agile Combat Employment Exercise, at Mt. Home Air Force Base, April 27th, 2021. The F-35A Lightning ll is a fifth-generation, multi-role, stealth fighter jet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Codie Trimble)

A photo of F-35 Lightning II maintenance

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lincoln Wood, 34th Fighter Generation Squadron weapons load crew member, drives an MJ-1 bomb lift truck to load an inert AIM-120, onto an F-35A Lightning ll, during an Agile Combat Employment Exercise, at Mt. Home Air Force Base, April 27th, 2021. During the exercise, the FGS tested their capability to quick-turn jets in a small scale combat scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Codie Trimble)

A photo of F-35 Lightning II maintenance

A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 34th Fighter Squadron taxis after landing at Mt. Home Air Force Base, April 27th, 2021, during an Agile Combat Employment Exercise. The jets flew to Mt. Home AFB from Hill AFB during the exercise to test their capabilities to rapidly deploy during a small-scale exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Codie Trimble)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --

Pilots and maintainers from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, enhanced their deployed agility with the F-35A Lightning II during an exercise here last week.

From April 27-30, Airmen from the 34th Fighter Squadron and 34th Fighter Generation Squadron completed an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) Exercise, designed to prepare Airmen to rapidly forward-deploy fighters and operate from a forward base.

To be agile and unpredictable in their movements, fighter units need to train to operate with limited resources, personnel, and time to generate sorties from almost any available airfield in the area.

“Potential adversaries are so used to us showing up in-country, staying in the same place for half a year, doing the same things, and leaving. They know it. We know it. Now we proved we can be more agile,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Cavazos, 34th FS commander, following a recent combat deployment.

During this exercise, Airmen from the 34th FGS flew to Mt. Home, on a C-17 with all of their required gear and equipment, to simulate flying into unfamiliar locations while performing rapid cargo download and upload to recover, fuel, and launch F-35s without persistent ground personnel or equipment.

“An ACE exercise is a small footprint of the squadron’s capability to turn jets in a potential combat scenario,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Whelan, 34th Fighter Generation Squadron Production Superintendent. “We executed the ‘Core 54’ process, which is where we had cross-trained weapons troops and integrated avionics specialists recovering and turning jets with crew chiefs. That also enables us to have a smaller footprint.”

During an ACE exercise, the maintenance manpower required is drastically reduced compared to home-station or main base operations through training multi-capable Airmen. For Airmen, the training ensures they’re prepared to complete their mission at a new location.

“We proved the concept where we could take that small footprint and forward deploy and prep jets with minimal manning,” said Whelan. “From a logistics standpoint, we learned what we could do better in the future to improve these exercises and during a combat scenario. It definitely helps our Airmen prepare for larger operations in the future, but doing it here on a smaller scale than what might happen.”